What: Europa League semi-final second leg
Who: Fulham vs Hamburg
When: Thursday 29th April, 2010, at 20:05 BST
Where: Craven Cottage, London, England
Craven Cottage Fortress
Fulham have been spectacular at their home ground this season, losing only twice in the last 12 matches played at Craven Cottage. The remarkable run includes some truly historic Europa League victories over international heavyweights Shakhtar Donetsk, Wolfsburg, and of course the memorable turnaround to knock out Italian giants Juventus. Now, starting from scratch against Hamburg with the tie at 0-0, the London side can create yet more memories.
Despite lying innocuously in 12th place in the Premier League, The Cottagers have shown, under the guidance of Roy Hodgson, that they are capable of beating world class sides on their day, as they convincingly beat Manchester United and Liverpool earlier in the season as well.
Although Fulham have seemingly struggled to find the consistency to dispatch of the “lesser” teams in England, the side have rarely disappointed on big occasions, proving that nerves should not be a factor for Roy Hodgson’s side. With a chance to qualify for the Europa League final on the line, expect The Cottagers to be well up for the challenge.
Ending Silverware Drought
Having drawn at home against The Cottagers in the first leg of their Europa League semi-final, Hamburg will be hoping to overcome what is sure to be a more adventurous Fulham side. The Bundesliga club have not won any major silverware since the 1980s and will have to get the better of the tough English team if they are to have any chance of ending their unfortunate barren spell.
Hamburg are currently sitting seventh in the Bundesliga standings, making success in the Europa League, the club’s primary target for the remainder of the season. Despite getting hammered by Hoffenheim at the weekend, a result which caused the club to sack Bruno Labbadia, interim coach Ricardo Moniz will surely have his side fully focused on a positive result against Fulham on Thursday night. It really could make or break their season.
Having dominated for large portions of the first leg, Hamburg will be brimming with confidence that a repeat performance, with the addition of a goal, can be enough at Craven Cottage.
Fulham 0-0 Wolverhampton Wanderers (17/04; Premier League)
Hamburg 0-0 Fulham (22/04; Europa League)
Everton 2-1 Fulham (25/04; Premier League)
Hamburg 0-1 Mainz (17/04; Bundesliga)
Hamburg 0-0 Fulham (22/04; Europa League)
Hoffenheim 5-1 Hamburg (25/04; Bundesliga)
Fulham: Bobby Zamora (doubt); Clint Dempsey; Andrew Johnson
Hamburg: Eljero Elia; Marcell Jansen; Tolgay-Ali Arslan; Maximilian Beister
Players to watch
Fulham – Mark Schwarzer: The Australian goalkeeper is undoubtedly one of the best shot-stoppers in the Premier League and did well to help Fulham emerge from Germany with a clean sheet in the first leg. While Fulham’s frontline will be expected to break down Hamburg’s resistance, the lack of an away goal puts The Cottagers in a precarious position – just one German goal could change the complexion of the entire tie. For this reason Schwarzer will have to keep his concentration even throughout long periods of inaction.
Hamburg – Ruud van Nistelrooy: Undoubtedly not at the same level that he once was for the likes of Manchester United and Real Madrid, Ruud van Nistelrooy remains a top-class player with a real eye for goal. The former unbelievably prolific striker has lost quite a bit of his pace, but his clinical finishing will always prove to be a significant threat for any opposing team. With the tie expected to be tight, van Nistelrooy’s quality could just be the difference.
After a cagey affair in the first leg, expect Fulham to be more willing to take the game to Hamburg. Roy Hodgson will know though that the London side must be careful not to concede that precious away goal, while Hamburg will hunt for the strike which could ensure they reach the final due to be played at their home ground. Fulham though, with many of their team fresh having been rested for their weekend Premier League game, should have just enough to ensure a 2-0 win.
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